When President Obama came to China a year ago, on his first official Asian trip, he spoke of the “deep and even dramatic ties” between the two powers that would work as partners on shared global burdens such as climate change, nonproliferation and the world economy.
On his return to Asia — a trip that bypasses China — the talk of partnership and shared burdens has been largely replaced by a deep mutual mistrust, with widespread disappointment.
In the intervening 12 months, Chinese leaders became infuriated when Obama met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom China has branded a separatist criminal, and when Washington announced plans to sell sophisticated weapons to Taiwan.
US officials tried in vain to get China's leaders in May to condemn its ally North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship, and then became alarmed at Beijing's bellicose response to a September incident involving a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese patrol ship around a group of disputed islands. In between there have been disputes over trade — involving tires, car parts and chicken — and questions of whether China is manipulating its currency.
What happened over the past year, experts agree, was a case of heightened expectations on both sides crashing into realities on the ground — to the point where relations now between the US and China are at one of the lowest points in years.
The deterioration has come against a backdrop of a China that is feeling increasingly emboldened — having weathered the global financial crisis while the US continues to struggle — and that has become more confident in pressing its interests in the region and around the world, analysts said.
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